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OpenHour Archive

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2017 OpenHours

September 11th: Summer of Code 2017

This month's Open Hour was on Monday, September 11th (due to the US Labor Day Holiday). We celebrated the great work of seven students (@lillian_korinek, @shelbyfire, @ryzokuken, @stella, @ccpandhare, @mridulnagpal, @Ashan) during 2017's Google Summer of Code and Rails Girls Summer of Code, and learned what this progress means for various Public Lab initiatives.


August 7th: Problem Identification

Monday, August 7th: Problem Identification (1pm EST, 5pm GMT)

In this OpenHour we explore "problem identification." Articulating questions as a group brings out critical local perspectives on issues, and starts us on a path to figuring out how we might explore these issues, together. In this OpenHour we are joined by individuals who bring deep and varied experiences facilitating group problem identification:

  • Paz Bernaldo: Paz leads a prototype project called laboratorio el Sombrero in Chile. The project's final goal is to help fight urban inequality and segregation (their physical and digital layers) by experimenting with open technologies and defining/tackling local problems.
  • Dinorah Cantu-Pedraza: Dino coordinates the GovLab Academy, an online institute aimed at helping government and social innovators take innovative projects from idea to implementation. Under her direction, the Academy has worked with over five hundred innovators from more than 30 countries online and off over the last two years. Thousands more have watched its skill-building videos.
  • Katie Villano Spellman: Katie is one of the leaders of Arctic and Earth SIGNs, a University of Alaska project to facilitate collaboration in climate change research between youth, scientists, educators, elders and community leaders in Alaskan rural and indigenous communities. Research questions are co-identified across multiple generations, knowledge systems, and spatial scales to address a most pressing local climate change concern.

Resources Shared

July 10th: Aerial Mapping

Celebrating three years of OpenHour we're revisiting our first OpenHour topic! In this OpenHour we look at how tools and projects have evolved over the years, and we'll talk about how Public Lab's newest iteration of kite and balloon mapping tools (the mini balloon and kites) can make aerial photography easier and even more accessible.

Links Shared

June 5th: Facilitation Techniques and Resources

On the front lines of environmental struggles, pressure is high, collaboration is necessary, and plans and decisions need to be made. Good facilitation techniques in meetings and in strategy development can make all the difference. Among other things, good facilitation can help people to stay on topic, be heard, make decisions, and ensure that everyone has a safe space to contribute. In this OpenHour we talking about facilitation techniques and hearing from individuals who employ different styles of facilitation in their efforts.

Speaker Bios: - Maria Frangos: I am a user experience designer engaged in both practice-based work and design research activities. I am committed to open and collaborative processes that promote the creation of freely accessible technologies and knowledge. My work is concerned with facilitating design processes, translating stakeholder needs and transferring / sharing knowledge. I believe that through these efforts, designers can foster trust, while empowering individuals in the co-creation process.

- Max Liboiron: Max directs the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist marine science laboratory dedicated to monitoring pollution and decolonizing science.

- Klie Kliebert: Klie is the Operations Manager for Public Lab and has experience in Social Work and group facilitation in various settings. Klie has co-drafted multiple Codes of Conduct and is currently the Safety Officer for GOSH (Gathering for Open Science Hardware). They are also a member of Trans*Visible, an extensive network of transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary trainers/facilitators/space holders across the United States, and were invited to attend the OpenHouse Summit as a leader who is advocating for inclusive uses of open source that serves diverse populations. Klie is dedicated to equitable space-making in tech and throughout the open source movement.

Links shared:

May 1st: Art in Environmental Science Advocacy

Often environmental issues are politically charged, hard to understand, and difficult to approach. Art can be a powerful way to open and share a dialogue about environmental issues. Environmental advocacy art has taken many forms: documentaries, visual pieces, spoken and written word, and performance to name a few. All of these tools help us to engage our brains in new ways, and with new people, about the environmental challenges our communities face. In this OpenHour we were joined by a few people who exercise the intersections of Art and Environmental Science in their work:

  • Jason Jones of The Natural History Museum, a mobile and pop-up museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature, and champions bold climate action. Beka and Jason are co-founders of Not An Alternative a collective that works at the intersection of art, activism and critical theory.
  • Catherine D'Ignazio: Assistant Professor of Civic Media and Data Visualization at Emerson College. Catherine's work includes Boston Coastline: Future Past and the Babbling Brook.
  • Matej Vakula is a New York based artist, educator & DIY enthusiast. Co-founder of CLAKULA Art Productions and Founding Director of Open Source Space Administration Institute for Alternative Research, Matej's work explores the impact of culture, technology, location and politics on personal experience, social interrelationships, body, and nature.

Links shared:

April 3rd: Fundraising for Projects

Projects are exciting, but thinking about fundraising to support them can get challenging! How do you know where to look, what works, and how much you need? This OpenHour we discussed fundraising to support local projects. We spoke about different platforms you can use, strategies that will help you achieve your goals, and ideas on how to budget.

Links shared:
* Ioby: If you're interested in starting an ioby campaign, simply click 'Start a Project' at to get connected with a coach and begin building your campaign. If you have any questions about crowdfunding your project on ioby, feel free to reach out to Ethany Uttech at You can also explore more resources and sign up for free crowdfunding webinars at
* Book: Fundraising for Social Change.
* Partnering with Public Lab on proposals and fiscal sponsorships
* Grant and foundation research resources: Guidestar and Foundation Directory (full resource available at public libraries in many cities)
* Awesome Foundation .

March 6th: Water Water Everywhere! A discussion of monitoring strategies and tools

Many would argue that some of the deepest roots of citizen science stems from work in community based water monitoring. In this OpenHour we talked about new water monitoring tools and strategies as well as discussed long standing methods people have used. We were joined by citizen science water monitoring groups, as well as those who have more recently worked on building open source monitoring tools the Riffle and the Mayfly.

Links Shared

February 6th: New Year, New Challenges: the shifting landscape of advocacy.

In this event people share and brainstorm about the potential changes and challenges in the environmental field in 2017.

  • what challenges are you thinking about with the new administration?
  • is there anything you are doing, or hear of others doing, to prepare for changes?
  • are there new groups, ideas or resources you're seeing as becoming more important? (for example: new partnerships, new emphasis on local level advocacy etc.)

Links shared:

January 9th: Classifying Waste

There are many different types of waste. Individuals, companies and agencies can have different methods for classifying waste types and waste streams. This affects the way we view waste and, as a society, handle it. This OpenHour we discuss how waste such as landfill waste, hazardous waste and household waste is classified, and implications of these classifications.

Here are links we shared during the OpenHour:

2016 Open Hours:

December 5th: Environmental monitoring methods recognized by enforcement bodies

While there are many types of methods people can use in environmental monitoring, only some have been approved by various agencies for official data. The EPA has a specific list of methods that can produce data that deemed sufficient for regulatory grounds See Federal Reference Method.

  • What methods are recognized, and by whom?
  • How do methods become recognized or official?
  • Can we work to make new methods recognized?

Resources shared on OpenHour:

See some of the attendee's brief profiles below:

  • Alison Parker ORISE fellow hosted by EPA. Alison recently helped edit the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology's advice and recommendations to EPA on citizen science.
  • Brandon Feenstra with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The SCAQMD has been working to compare the data of new low-cost air monitoring tools to those that are federally recognized. Check out their website here
  • Rachelle Duvall EPA research scientist and co-author of a recent publication on integrating sensor monitoring technologies into current air pollution regulation. 10.5923.j.ajee.20140406-2.02.pdf

November 7th: New contributors to open source code

Recently, Public Lab has had a number of people who are coding for the first time making substantial contributions! New tools and ideas such as "First Timers Only" github issues have helped to bring new coders in, but we're looking to learn and share more!

  • What helps to makes new code contribution easy?
  • What have First Time Coders contributed to the codebase?
  • How can we engage non-coders to help on questions such as design interface?
  • How else can we do outreach for contributors?
  • After the first commit, then what?

October 3rd: Such Activities, Very Replication!

Over the past month, Public Lab built out a whole slate of new features for people to engage on the website by creating and replicating activities. Together, these present a brand new way of working collaboratively at Public Lab.

Whereas before you might have visited a tool page, but wondered how to get involved, now we’re encouraging people to share step-by-step activities for trying out new techniques, testing how well they work, and using them in monitoring. But we're just starting to try this out and we need your input, whether you're new to Public Lab or not!

We’re also happy to welcome organizers Katie Gradowski and Catherine D’Ignazio! Their work as technologists and educators is at the leading edge of the culture of replication and onboarding being cultivated in Public Lab. See their work on the coqui’s “Ladder of Activities” here:

September 6th: Google Summer of Code Projects

Over the summer, five students from Google Summer of Code have been working hard on projects to bring new features to These projects include improved profile pages, internationalization of the website, a Question/Answer feature and more! Hear from the students and learn about the new features they are helping to bring to Public Lab!

August 1st: Public Comment on Environmental Issues

A Public Comment period is often opened when environmental decisions are being made. Local and federal agencies host Public Comment periods on issues such as environmental impact reports or regulation changes. While anyone can participate in a Public Comment period, how do you know if you're getting your points and interests across? If the issue is something you're passionate about, how to do express your passions in an effective way? Check out this OpenHour on Public Comment!

July 7th: Learning about the Barnraising in Val Verde!

This coming weekend, Public Lab will be hosting a Regional Barnraising in Val Verde CA. In getting ready, we'll be talking with people who have participated in previous Barnraisings, what happened at the event, what the major take aways were, and how things have changed since. We'll also be joined by people who are planning to come to Val Verde for the event. We'll also talk about some of the environmental questions people are interested in exploring and gear up for the event.

June 6th: Exploring Proof

In this OpenHour we hear from three community researchers and three environmental lawyers on specific case studies with legal applications of community-collected environmental data. Noelle Francois discusses how HeatSeekNYC’s internet-of-things sensor approach to slumlord accountability is faring in NYC’s Municipal Housing Court. Scott Eustis recounts how an oblique kite photo of a conical pile of coal dust met the legal definition of “ongoing pollution” bringing about a $75,000 fine to United Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River. Jackie Creedon discusses the role of air samples collected with GCMs bucket in what has become the 2nd largest victory ever under the Clean Air Act (Tonawanda Coke). Each of the three lawyers -- Aaron Mango, Chris Nidel, and Edan Rotenberg -- share lessons learned from pursuing environmental cases in both civil and criminal court.

May 2nd: Public Lab's research culture

Join us for a discussion on quality, navigability, and onboarding to highlight the following points and more:

  • organizing content
  • refereeing content
  • standardizing documentation
  • collaborating rigorously
  • onboarding new researchers

Liz will facilitate this call. We can take notes here:

  • We'll start with a round of intros from people who are in the googleHangout or watching / typing in on chat
  • We'll choose a notetaker
  • We'll go around to give each person time to express a single, concise observation / sticking point they have encountered working in an open, distributed format. Maybe something about where to start, how to continue, find, or bring projects to resolution.
  • ...We may do a second round of short observations! Continue to take notes.
  • Once these experiences are written down, we'll see if there is any clustering. Maybe we have some emerging "problem definitions"
  • Now is a good time to add in points of reference on practices that have been working well either in PL or from anywhere to illuminate our discussion.
  • Well-equipped with this context, we can explore some of the current improvements happening to PL's collaborative infrastructure, and also think about more ideas

Here are some background references to where this conversation has been happening, and some resources that have recently been created:

April 4th: Open Access to Environmental Data

Check out this OpenHour on what environmental data is available and accessible for everyone to use! Learn about changes coming to data owned by government and universities, hear from people developing tools to sort data and learn about opening data!

Links shared Groups encouraging collaboration on open data:

Other links shared:

March 7th: Soil and Soil Testing

Interested in learning about tools related to soil and sampling? Looking to find out what can be measured in soil? Check it out::

Links shared:

February 1st: Landfills: Mapping and Monitoring!

Links shared:

January 28th: Live Call on QGIS

Links shared during this event:

January 11th: Reflections on the Climate Conference (COP21)

This OpenHour we hear reflections from people who were at COP21. What did we learned? what surprised, rejuvenated, disappointed or inspired those who were there.

EcoFys Reference to "Carbon Bomb" Industrial Projects

2015 OpenHours

December 7th The Oil Testing Kit!

Interested in learning what's been going on with the Public Lab Oil Testing Kit? This OpenHour we talk about the Beta program,, kit development and what's in store for the future of this tool!

November 2nd: Gearing up for the Barnraising

Coming to the Barnraising?

Tuesday October 20th, Live Call: Calibration and Characterization of DIY ​Instrumentation

Background: ​Those of us who've been interested in building our own ​devices for ​performing environmental measurements have ​struggled with questions like:

  • How might we check to see whether we're actually measuring what we hope we're measuring? (E.g. -- is our air quality sensor really working?)
  • What sorts of equipment / approaches / methods are 'good enough' to answer (or raise) the questions we're hoping to address?
  • What does 'good enough' mean for various audiences (our community; a journalist; a government agency) and purposes (decisions about personal health; triggering an investigation; filing a lawsuit)?

Speaker Bio: Pete Marchetto is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the​ ​Cornell Soil and Water Lab, and is soon to be an Assistant​ ​Professor in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the​ ​University of Minnesota. His research revolves around finding​ ​new, better, and less expensive ways of making instrumentation​ ​for those in the organismal​ ​and environmental biological fields, as​ ​well as the earth sciences.​ ​More information and contact information can be found at:​ ​

Thursday October 8th, Live Call

As a follow-up to the September Open Hour "Transparency in Environmental Policy and Science", we are having a small discussion on transparency in environmental policy and science and its surprising application in the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015

Daniel Sarewitz will be joining us, please read his piece in Nature as a preview. Philip Silva, Public Lab organizer, will also be joining us to bring his perspectives on science and politics.

Monday, October 5th: Formaldehyde and the Plant Remediation Experiment

Formaldehyde "is the most common and most toxicologically understood indoor air pollutant," it's just about everywhere. But beyond thinking about it, what if there was something we could do about it? A this OpenHour we'll be talking about Public Lab's new Where We Breathe project and discussing how you can build a plant remediation experiment for about $20 - no soldering or microchips needed! The plants that we are going to be experimenting with have been lab-tested by NASA for cleaning air in space stations.

In this call we were joined by :

  • Nick Shapiro Public Lab's Open Air Fellow and lead researcher on Public Lab's "Where We Breathe" indoor air quality monitoring and mitigation project, and
  • Gretchen Gehrke: Data Ambassador with Public Lab and chemistry translator extraordinaire!

Wednesday, September 9th: "Transparency in Environmental Policy and Science."

Environmental Science and Policy affects everyone, yet people can find themselves in situations where the language used is unclear, text heavy or full of jargon. In this OpenHour we will explore this issue, and how people tried to address it.

During this OpenHour we were joined by:

  • Mark Meisner, Executive Director of International Environmental Communications Association,
  • Catherine D'Ignazio, a Public Lab organizer who works with MIT Media Lab and Civic Media & Data Visualization Department at Emerson College.

Links people shared during OpenHour

Resources people shared:

Monday, August 3rd, Mapping in the Middle of it!

There are some awesome projects circling around Public Lab that have really taken low cost aerial mapping to some interesting and challenging places. We're joined by:
- Ann Chen Fulbright scholar who, with National Geographic, has been working on mapping pipeline proposals with indigenous communities in Alberta and British Columbia,
- Claudia Martinez Mansell bringing the refugee camps in Lebanon to the public eye through mapping, and
- Laura Chipley who's embarking on a project in August to map mountain top removal sites. Check it out below!:

Monday, July 6th: Open Air Projects

Looking for updates on Dust Monitoring Projects? These projects fall under the Public Lab Open Air Initiative! Join us here to learn more about these projects, meet some of the makers and learn how you can get involved!

Links Shared:
Article from Willie Shubert
Speck time:
Link from Jeff:
Public Lab DustDuino Wiki
DustDuino web page
Willie’s Git Hub page on Open dust map
CMU spec repository and for non-commercial use
Albert’s Page on CO
Soap Bubble video
Open Pipe Kit
Bacon Danger

Monday June 1st: Public Lab Web Development behind the code

Find yourself wondering how web development in our open source community works? Interested in learning who does this work, how it's done and how to get involved? Meet the people who work so hard behind the code in Public Lab!

Links shared during the call:

Monday May 4th: Public Lab's 5 year anniversary party!

Monday, April 6: Learning

On Public Lab's 5th Anniversary, we had a roundtable discussion on peer-to-peer learning. Telling stories of times when we exchanged concepts, skills, and attitudes, we then move on to tackle topics like expertise, jargon, the role of social bonds (online and offline), and the type of resources that support learning. Cindy Regalado, Beryl Thurman, Bronwen Densmore, Chris Fastie, and Ned Horning join us contributing in site and ideas.

Monday, March 2nd: Engaging in "C" Science

What do people mean when they refer to citizen, civic or community science? Who is it for? How do people collaborate, stay involved, and push towards outcomes? What makes a successful program and what are things to look out for?

In this exciting OpenHour we were joined by:
Julie Vastine: Director of the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, based out of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1986, ALLARM provides scientific and programmatic assistance to Pennsylvania and New York communities interested in using science as a tool to investigate stream health.
Jessica Hendricks: Program Manager at Global Community Monitor, an organization that works internationally to train and support communities in the use of environmental monitoring tools to understand the impact of fossil fuel industry pollution on their health and the environment.
Tim Vargo: Manager of Research & Citizen Science at the Urban Ecology Center. The Urban Ecology Center's Citizen Science Program aims to serve as a meaningful bridge between academic research and the community-at-large, enabling collaboration, and creating a more engaged, knowledgeable and ecologically literate citizenry.

Resources shared during the call include:
* Refer to the Citizen Science Association
* Cornell Lab of Ornithology
* for water quality monitoring resources

February 2nd 2015: Lending Libraries

Links and references shared for the event: * *

January 2015: ENERGY!

Interested in oil/fracking/pipelines/pet coke issues? This is the OpenHour for you!

Links shared durring OpenHour: *
* *

Chicago Project Pages: *

2014 OpenHours

Monday December 1st at 1:00pm EST: "Public Lab: A year in review and what's coming next."

November 18th, the Water Hackathon in New Orleans

Missed the event? See it here!

Speakers away from the computer were hard to hear so here are some notes from the meeting.

November 3rd at 8:00pm EST: Gearing up for the Barnraising!

October 6th: Events and Event Hosting

Missed the event? See it here!

Guest speakers included: * Jen Hudon, Public Lab event extraordinaire!
* Katie Gradowski, Parts and Crafts, kids at events "expert"!
* Danielle Kraus, Propeller event pro!

September 1: Open Topic Session

Missed the event? See it here!

August 4: Thermal Imaging

Missed the event? See it here!

Call guests included: Lela Prashad, Ned Horning and Zenon Tech-Czarny
Links that were shared:

JULY 28: Open Air: air pollutants and air quality monitoring tools

Missed the event? See it here!

Call guests included:

JULY 21: Water Contaminants and Detection

Missed the event? See it here!

Water Contaminants and ways to detect them with guest speakers:

JULY 14: Spectral Analysis

Missed the event? See it here!

Spectral Analysis, How can it be used? And where can the science of spectrometry take us in the future? We will be joined by:

  • Jeff Warren, Public Lab Research Coordinator, who will be discussing spectrometry, and its applications for oil sampling.
  • Amy Soyka who will discuss color theory, and her project to testing dust and water samples from the Latrobe valley following a mine fire!

JULY 7: Near Infrared Photography

Missed the event? See it here!

Near-Infrared Imaging This week on OpenHour we discussed Near-Infrared Imaging and!
Ned Horning and Dorn Cox also joined covering topics of:

  • The science and technology behind NIR,
  • Examples of it in use, and
  • Where this technology could head in the future!

JUNE 30: Aerial Mapping

Missed the event? See it here!

Aerial mapping and new collaborative map developments! Learn about aerial photography and mapknitting. Hear about a new software development and ways use maps to tell stories through text, images, multimedia and annotations. See community case studies that apply these tools to projects, and help shape the future of mapmaking in your community!

During this OpenHour we heard from:

To learn about other types of events, see